Clemens August von Galen was born into a noble family of Oldenburg, Germany, in 1878. Even more than by his blood lineage or the high ecclesiastical rank he would attain, he would distinguish himself by his lion-hearted defense of the truth against a machine of the most harrowing evil.
Ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Münster in 1904, Fr. von Galen served twenty-nine years first as vicar to the Cathedral and then at various parish assignments both in Münster and around Berlin.
In 1933, just as Hitler was coming to power, Fr. von Galen was consecrated the Bishop of Münster—the first diocesan bishop ordained under the Nazi regime. Standing six and a half feet tall and with the courage of a lion, he immediately made his voice heard about the “neopaganism” of the Nazi government in a pastoral letter of 1934.
Pius XI called both him and the Bishop of Berlin to Rome in 1937 to discuss what was happening in Germany as well as a forthcoming encyclical. Soon afterwards, the Holy Father published Mit brennender Sorge (“With Burning Concern”), his address to the German Bishops about the evil of Nazism.
Bishop von Galen circulated it without concern for governmental wrath.
When war broke out, the “Lion of Münster” didn’t back down. He delivered his most famous sermons against Nazism in 1941: three speeches condemning the Nazi confiscation of Church property, their unjust imprisonment of innocents, and their wicked euthanasia program. Although he knew he was gravely risking his own life in speaking out, he considered it his duty as a pastor of the Church, and was willing to do that duty unto death.
They hated von Galen for his courage and opposition, but the Nazi leaders decided not to make a move against the popular Bishop. They planned their revenge for later, instead. Fortunately, there would be no “later” for the Nazis: Berlin fell in May of 1945.
The brave Bishop had survived the war, and was made a Cardinal in 1946. Before the ruins of the bombed-out Münster Cathedral, the Cardinal—with 50,000 people listening—thanked them for their fidelity during the dark days of the Nazi regime.
Having done his work so faithfully, Cardinal von Galen died only a month later in March of 1946. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
Jump into the exciting story of this hero of the Faith in The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis. Fr. Daniel Utrecht of the Oratorian Fathers tells this incredible and inspiring tale, tracing the life of Blessed Clemens from his childhood through all of his courageous feats in defense of the truth. Available today at The Catholic Company!